YODAs celebrate a decade of dementia empowerment

BLG Mind’s Young Onset Dementia Activists group (YODA) and guests including local MP Ellie Reeves and Bromley Deputy Mayor Christine Harris enjoyed a fun-filled and emotional celebration to mark ten years of DEEP (the Dementia Empowerment and Encouragement Project) on Friday 1 July.

The YODAs and guests, including the YODA mascot, Nully the pug, groove in the garden during the celebrations.

As well as singing and dancing, the event, which DEEP generously supported with a £500 donation, featured the premiere of an animated film created by the YODAs. There were also moving scenes as members of the group spoke about the importance of YODA to them, describing it as a “lifesaver and a lifeline” and a service that shows “there is life to be had with dementia”.

Alan, a carer for his wife, Ann, described how he had initially struggled to cope when she received a dementia diagnosis at an early age. He said he had spent 30 years dealing with disasters as a police officer but felt unable to deal with “the disaster that struck my family’s life”.

The YODAs and their carers shared experiences and spoke about the positive influence the service has had on their lives.

He went on: “We need to start dealing with dementia properly now otherwise it will fall to the NHS and local government, and the problem is growing. YODA is a model that should be replicated and it gives people a reason to live and hope.”

Other attendees at the event included a journalist from the Alzheimer’s Society magazine ‘Dementia Together’, and BBC researchers, who were exploring filming the YODA group in the future.

Linda Brown, a MindCare Dementia Choir volunteer, said: “It was extremely emotional and totally amazing to hear their personal accounts of how their diagnosis had affected them, and how Saira [Bromley Dementia Services manager Saira Addison] has made such a difference to their lives, and the lives of the carers. It was moving yet so inspirational.”

Bromley Dementia Services Manager Saira, right, with Lewisham West and Penge MP Ellie Reeves.

Manager Saira, the driving force behind YODA, received widespread praise. “Saira is a phenomenal woman,” said one attendee, while Ellie Reeves, MP for Lewisham West and Penge, described her as “inspirational” in a Twitter post (left).

Following a session of dancing in the garden, the celebrations came to an end with group singing, led by MindCare Dementia Choir volunteer Sheila Arden.

Manager Saira said: “It was an amazing afternoon and heart-warming to listen to the YODAs sharing their stories. It is a year since we started YODA and we have come so far; I just want to secure funding for three years so we can provide a little security and continue to be able to plan exciting new activities and make wonderful memories.”

Further information

Find out more about BLG Mind’s Young Onset Dementia Activitists group.

Find out more about DEEP, the Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project.

Our life-changing YODA service depends on donations to continue its work. Please consider making a donation via our fundraising pages, putting YODA as the reference.